Is Forensic Science in the Philippines Ready for an AI-Powered Revolution?
Forensic science has come a long way. With advancements in tools and methodology, we have a better, more scientific, and more accurate understanding of crimes and the evidence involved. We have an abundance of clarity now, and most of this comes from how forensics has developed over time. Now, we’re seeing the introduction of yet another element to the investigation process: artificial intelligence (AI).
So could AI really help solve cases? If so, how and how better? We examine the pros and cons to find out how AI can revolutionize forensics in the Philippines
What AI in Forensics Looks Like
AI has now helped solve some high-profile cases, leading us to what would be an even newer age for forensic science.
Among the most prominent it has solved is the case of the notorious “Golden State Killer,” who is now serving 26 life sentences. This cold case from the 1970s and 80s was resolved when investigators harnessed the power of AI in voice analysis, along with DNA evidence, leading to the identification and capture of the suspect more than four decades after the initial crimes.
The case of the infamous “BTK Killer” in the U.S., likewise, has benefited from AI in forensics. Here, AI was used to perform linguistic analysis on letters sent by the killer to the media and police. This would lead to the generation of a “linguistic 'profile.” Case closed. The perpetrator was identified after roughly three decades of investigative work.
And these are only the tip of the iceberg. These examples offer glimpses of AI's vast potential in forensic science, especially in criminal cases that have gone dead and cold.
AI’s ability to process large amounts of data quickly and accurately makes it an ideal tool for forensic science. The time-consuming fingerprint comparisons, for instance, can be done as quickly and accurately as ever. AI-driven facial recognition technology, too, can be used in forensic anthropology to reconstruct faces from skeletal remains.
Meanwhile, machine learning algorithms can predict physical traits from DNA samples, such as hair color or eye color. Virtual reality (VR) and AI technology, on the other hand, can work together to create immersive crime scene reconstructions. This allows investigators to explore the scene from different angles and perspectives to understand how a certain crime could occur.
How AI Elevates Forensic Science
The integration of AI into forensic science offers clear benefits that could change the way we conduct criminal investigations.
One of the most significant ways AI impacts the field is through increased efficiency. AI can analyze data much faster than humans, reducing the time it takes to process evidence and even identify suspects or victims. This could lead to quicker resolutions for criminal cases.
We can also expect improved accuracy overall. Machine learning algorithms are less prone to human errors and biases, which means a more balanced analysis of the evidence in question. This could lead to a higher success rate in solving cases and securing convictions. AI can even detect newer, more complex patterns, some of which the human eye could miss from time to time.
Collaboration can be one of the industry’s most pressing concerns, as well. And AI-powered tools can fix that. These can help streamline communication between forensic scientists, law enforcement agencies, academes, and other stakeholders. We all want a more effective cooperation model for investigations, after all. Maybe international research collaborations can yield such customized AI systems. This could mean AI specifically tailored for local needs and datasets.'
Baby-Faced Killer: Looking Back At When a Fil-Aussie Brutally Murdered His Mom, Dad and Sister
When Did We Become a Nation of Forensics Experts?
The Potential Risks of AI Integration in Philippine Forensics
Challenges and ethical considerations persist. Integrating Ai into something like forensic science also has its fair share of concerns, especially in a developing country like the Philippines.
Like in the case of data privacy. The use of AI algorithms requires access to vast amounts of data, which could sound the alarm on privacy and security for users involved. Forensic science, after all, requires delicate care of the information presented.
Algorithm bias is a thing, too. With AI in forensics, machine learning algorithms are only as good as the data they are trained on. If the training data contains biases or inaccuracies, the AI system may well be biased or inaccurate.
Developing countries like the Philippines have limited data to train effective AI models for facial recognition and evidence analysis tasks. This could reduce AI accuracy and suitability in local forensic contexts. Any possible bias that may be observed could undermine public trust in forensic agencies. Datasets and training models need to be customized for the Philippine context.
There is also the issue of uneven access here. Wealthier organizations and nations will likely gain the most initial benefits from AI, potentially widening a "forensic divide" in the Philippines and the developing world. While the Philippines has made significant strides in strengthening its forensic science, capabilities, it still faces its own set of hurdles. Such is the case with outdated facilities and limited resources.
Of all things, there’s this collective anxiety that AI could replace human investigators, too. AI will likely increasingly augment at the expense of the forensic professional.
All these are valid issues that need to be addressed. But that shouldn’t prevent us from exploring this new age and AI’s potential. From academia and the government to industry and civil society, each facet of Philippine society should nevertheless embrace AI. This is how we can shape ethical and effective AI for forensics.
See, for the most part, AI can take care of the more mundane tasks in forensic science. This should leave more professionals focusing on the more complex aspects of their work. As a matter of fact, it would also help them develop new skills in emerging areas like digital forensics or VR crime scene reconstruction.
Of course, Philippine forensic organizations still face a tall task ahead. International partnerships and knowledge transfers can be difficult in the current state of our affairs. But all these can be resolved with just the right amount of patience as we traverse this new terrain for the industry. AI integration could further modernize forensic facilities in the Philippines, as well, with just enough regulatory presence. This can be quite the opportunity for capacity building among Filipino forensic professionals.
In the end, faulty forensics is justice frustrated. But with the help of AI, we might see a future where we can better address the various gaps in our system. We can make our processes more accurate and efficient and, in turn, dispense justice at a more decisive rate. And for a country like the Philippines, AI in forensics might give us the best chance to solve more crimes and ultimately create a safer environment for Filipinos everywhere.
Dr. Richard Jonathan O. Taduran is a forensic scientist specializing in biological and forensic anthropology.